“The Repetition of These Things” by John Pursley III

John Pursley III


I burn incense in the house to keep the secret
                            of my dying:
                    cones & sticks, candles sometimes spritz

Of cologne my mother saves for me, next to the well-worn
                    and other toiletries of the living.

My father says it’s nothing, but I read & re-read Tropic of Cancer,
                            always searching
                    for the truth of it, to scratch away what is

Already dead or dying, my skin sloughing toward some
                            inner chamber
                    of the heart, eyebrows furrowed like a silver fox.

O this hair, even in its tiny sprouts of twos and threes
                            seems to carry
                    a certain sense of rebuttal I cannot burn away.

And what for? What good does it do? The repetition
                            of these things:
                    the dust of living, Pine-Sol-ed & carpet scrubbed,

the neighbor’s old Camaro that sputters once, clicks & dies,
                            fully restored
                    to its natural gray primer

matching the stretch of dry dirt straddled between the yards
                            where no grass
                    will grow. We lose an hour, gain an hour,

turn the page or put it down—just a scratch,
                            an itch, to say
                    I’m alive, to say this leads to that,

one foot and then the other: as if everything leading towards
                            my father’s figure—
                    I inhale . . . exhale to erase my former breath,

bite my lip, move on.

from Rattle #22, Winter 2004

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